Saturday, August 31, 2013

Why Banning Abortion With the Exception of Rape Would Be Just A Bandaid for Rape Victims

I know a woman who was date raped in the early 70's in college. Weeks later she found out she was pregnant, so she took a trip hours long to New York City to an auditorium full of women like her, getting abortions performed in almost factory-like assembly lines. She described it as pain, demoralizing, and one of the worst experiences of her life. But her only other options were to carry the rapist's baby to term or to use the dangerous and infamous coat-hanger technique. Back then, abortion was illegal. Would this woman have benefited from having the exection of rape? Probably, but it also would have hurt her.
"Keep your hands off my uterus!"
photo credit: Kate Sumbler, ktpupp,  cc.

With the recent assault on women's reproductive rights, the idea that one's religious beliefs can be imposed on a nation built on the idea of religious freedom, many people are turning to a weaker position and saying, "OK, well, what about rape? Shouldn't a woman be allowed to get an abortion in the case of rape?" These are some of the same people who normally would be completely against the idea of banning abortion. 

Why is this a bad idea for rape victims? Let's look at Poland. Poland is a country where abortion is illegal with three exceptions; health of the mother, a severe deformity of the fetus, or rape. In 2003, I talked to several women who worked in community services to treat rape victims in Poland. There was one universal thing they all said about women who were raped. Rape victims were very frequently told they were making it up in order to get abortion legally. It was just another way to blame rape victims for their ordeals or to say it wasn't real, making the experience much worse for the
victim. And this begs the questions also, were some or many victims were also denied abortions at the same time because doctors or other authority figures got the idea in their head that they were making it up? In truth, I imagine the rate of false rape reporting is most likely actually higher than the 2% in United States in Poland because there are some desperate women who need abortions. This gives actual rape victims a bad name and keeps the cycle of blaming the victim alive and kicking.

If abortion is only legal with a few exceptions, who will be trained to perform them? Will we be back to the days of travelling for hours or days to get to a factory-assembly line of women in an auditorium?

Now, I do think rape victims should be entitled to abortions regardless as to whether they're legal to everyone else or not, but this would only be a bandaid. When abortion is banned, it hurts everyone including rape victims. Let's not lay down our freedoms so quickly.

Rape victims do need the right to an abortion. I'm certainly not arguing that. And there have been some gross extreme examples of just how far lawmakers could or will go. For example, New Mexico's House Bill 206 could have forced women pregnant by their rapists to carry the fetuses to term or risk a felony charge and up to three years in prison.

Below is an excerpt from Laura Bassett's Huffington Post article, "New Mexico Bill Would Criminalize Abortions After Rape As 'Tampering With Evidence'":

“Tampering with evidence shall include procuring or facilitating an abortion, or compelling or coercing another to obtain an abortion, of a fetus that is the result of criminal sexual penetration or incest with the intent to destroy evidence of the crime," the bill says. 
Third-degree felonies in New Mexico carry a sentence of up to three years in prison.
While the bill's author, Representative Cathrynn Brown (R) later claimed the bill was intended to punish the rapist for evidence tampering, it did not appear to have the clarity to enforce it in that way. And if you think about it, except in the case of coercing the rape victim into getting an abortion, who is the one who will be responsible for the abortion?

In another very disturbing case, a 14-year-old girl who was raped by a 20-year-old man, became pregnant, kept the baby, and then was forced to let him (Melendez) visit the child. She (H.T.) is now the plaintiff in a lawsuit against the state of Massachusetts to stop this madness.

The short excerpt below , "Raped and Impregnated at 14, Girl Must Now Must Share Parental Rights with Her Attacker" by Iulia Filip discusses his motives.

 After a family court judge ordered Melendez to pay $110 a week in child support, he Melendez asked for visitation rights, and offered to withdraw his request in exchange for not having to pay child support, according to the lawsuit.
"Melendez had no prior contact with the child and had expressed no interest in the child, but no Massachusetts law forbids the enforcement of visitation rights by a biological father who causes a child's birth through the crime of rape," the complaint states.  
Wow! While this is not directly related to abortions in the case of rape, these kinds of cases have the potential to pop up more and more if abortion is banned.

We need to allow anyone in the United States to receive an abortion legally. Otherwise we set ourselves up for some horrible situations for women around the country. Some which will be horrific and some will be just your garden variety of making a bad situation much worse.

So let's be a nation of freedom and choice. America was founded on the principles of religious freedom. You're entitled to your religion. I'm entitled to mine. Or I'm entitled to no religion at all. And in that vain, I should not have to follow your religion's view on what I can and can't do with my body. You can choose not to get an abortion. And I can choose to get one. But for the sake of rape victims, please choose choice for everyone.


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